Scotland’s police chief has defended his decision to ask the Metropolitan Police Service to carry out a review into a scandal hit undercover unit.
A probe into the actions of the former Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency is to be carried at the request of Police Scotland’s chief constable Iain Livingstone.
The Scottish Police Authority challenged the decision at a meeting in Edinburgh, with former deputy chief constable Tom Halpin highlighting the Met’s own covert policing scandals.
The Met issued an apology to twelve women who unknowingly entered into relationships with undercover officers from the now defunct Special Demonstration Squad and National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
They have also paid out substantial sums in settlements to the women following the “totally unacceptable behaviour of a number of undercover police officers”.
Speaking at the meeting in Edinburgh, SPA board member Tom Halpin said: “Covert policing is the highest level of intrusion into people’s lives particularly their private lives as well.
“We owe an absolute duty as a board to hold that to the utmost scrutiny.
“You have exercised your own position to make the decision of asking the Metropolitan Police to be the organisation that scrutinises this and I understand that that is absolutely your imperative that you can make that.
“However, some of the real controversial issues around covert policing in the United Kingdom in recent which have been well reported have focused on units that were operated by and managed and oversight and governance came from the Metropolitan Police.
“Is that the appropriate body to be doing this external review of Police Scotland?”
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone defended the decision to ask for a peer review by the English force as their “bitter experience” has left them “best placed” to carry it out.
He said: “In regard to my request to the Metropolitan Police and to the commissioner, I think your observations are accurate about some of the experiences that the Metropolitan Police Service have had.
“But in actual fact, it’s because of some of those experiences that I think the Metropolitan Police are the best placed to carry out this review.
“They have the depth, the knowledge and a number of their operational practises and changes have been learned through bitter experience.
“This is the Metropolitan Police of 2019, it’s the commissioner of 2019 and the individuals who have been tasked by the commissioner to carry out the work to review the situation in Scotland are individuals of real experience and depth.
“The nature of this work is such that its difficult to go to smaller organisations to find people that have the requisite skills and experience and knowledge.
“And again, given the experience the Metropolitan Police have had and given their current level of rigour and their commitment to the ethical use of covert policing, I think that across the United Kingdom, they are by far in a way the most appropriate organisation to carry out this work.”
An internal review of the SCDEA has already been carried out by Police Scotland which the chief said was “robust and appropriate”.
But he added that action would be taken if the Met found further lines of enquiry or made recommendations.
The misconduct at the SCDEA was revealed by a former officer, known as Mrs K, who raised civil proceedings against her former bosses.
A judge ruled that she had been unfairly treated after she raised concerns about being asked to burn documents from the agency. Police Scotland is appealing the decision.
The SCDEA no longer exists as it was incorporated into Police Scotland, which replaced the former eight-force model in April 2013.